07/19/2017 16:38 EDT | Updated 07/19/2017 17:11 EDT

Moving Past The Stigma Of Surrogacy In Canada

Times have changed and, as a society, we have become more open to the diversity of how families are formed.

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage — right?

Not in 2017.

Family is no longer defined as a married mother and father with children. Times have changed and, as a society, we have become more open to the diversity of how families are formed. We have seen an increase in single parent families, same sex parent families, and families with more than two parents. Parents may even be two people in a co-parenting arrangement who are not, and never have been, in an intimate relationship with each other. With this shift in our definition of family has come a higher demand for options for creating those families.

My own journey to parenthood has been a battle against stereotypes, cultural stigma, and a lack of information. I've been pushed aside and looked over as a single man. Being the first single male to ever be accepted to a domestic adoption waiting list in Alberta, I am working to break through barriers and forge a path for others. My relationship status makes me no less able to be a loving father and create a happy home.

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While adoption is often the first choice that comes to mind for people who have decided to have a family but are unable to conceive biologically due to infertility or inability, the adoption community isn't always welcoming to those who are LGBTQ. Furthermore, birth parents may be biased against single or gay Intended Parents. I have experienced this firsthand. Adoption is a lengthy process that can end in frustration and discrimination and, as such, surrogacy has become a valuable and important choice for the LGBTQ community.

Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman carries a baby for others. An egg from the Intended Mother (or from an egg donor) is fertilized by the Intended Father's sperm (or donor sperm) to create an embryo. The embryo is then implanted into the surrogate mother's womb by a fertility specialist. The surrogate gestates the baby, to be given to the Intended Parents at birth.

I want children to know where they came from and be proud that so many people came together so that they could be born.

Through my work in surrogacy, and as a single Intended Parent, I have learned that there are numerous misconceptions about surrogacy and egg donation in Canada. Many people have no idea that surrogacy is even legal in Canada, assuming they would need to pursue a surrogacy arrangement in another country such as India, the United States, or Mexico. It's commonly thought that the surrogate's egg is used, leading to fear that the surrogate mother may change her mind and keep the baby or that this could cause legal complications in the future. If the surrogate's egg is not used, the automatic assumption is that an egg would come from a complete stranger, possibly an egg bank.

When speaking with gay men who want to become parents, I have heard joy when they learn that surrogacy is a possibility right here at home. The knowledge that the gestational surrogate does not carry a child that is genetically linked to that surrogate provides a sense of relief. They're excited to learn that they can build a relationship with the gestational surrogate and egg donor.

I have made it my mission to change the stigmas and misconceptions that surround Third Party Assisted Reproductive Technology, such as surrogacy and egg donation, in Canada. Intended Parents should feel pride about how they've grown their family. Parents should be able to tell their child "this is your Egg Mom" or "this is the amazing person who grew you in their womb. We could not be a family without their kindness." I want children to know where they came from and be proud that so many people came together so that they could be born. After all, pride is interwoven into LGBTQ culture. Pride in orientation, gender, and individuality. What could be more fitting than pride in one's personal journey to building a loving family?

Through education, surrogate mothers and egg donors are empowered to help others become parents, including gay and single men. Family is no longer defined by genetics, gender, sexual orientation, or structure. A family is love, bond, and commitment. Through surrogacy, family dreams come true.

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